Thoughts on "self-care"

Well moms, the jig is up!

We’ve been revealed as broken husks of humans, barely clinging to sanity, let alone finding time for a shower.

This week the New York Times dropped a truth bomb on the world. It turns out that the people shouldering the majority of child care, elder care, home care, food prep, emotional labor, homeschooling and low wage work while fending off a 500 billion dollar industry whose goal it is to make them feel fat, old, wrinkly, saggy, bumpy, pouchy and hairy are…tired! They’re tired and broken and miserable and somehow still managing to be the harbingers of hope for their tired and broken and miserable families.

My reaction was equal parts “duh!” And, “how dare!”

Ok first yes, part of me felt relieved. So it’s not just me, huddled in a corner of my closet, the blue light of someone else’s life shining on my pale face, while my family thinks I’m showering. There’s a reason for this heavy stone in my stomach, the lump in my throat, the tightness of my heart. I’m struggling, we’re struggling. Someone named it.

But then, the irritation set in. It’s like the fucking groundhog telling us winter ain’t over. Yeah, we get it dude. We can’t see out of our front windows because we’re buried under six feet of snow, with another storm on the way. No one’s breaking out her sandals, you dick.

Yep, hi, back here? Not sure if you can hear me, oh sorry I was on mute and/or too busy pushing the planet up a never ending mountain to weigh in until now, but yeah, what the fuck did you think has been happening for the past 11 months? The past eleven-ish centuries?

We didn’t need the New York Times to tell us how hard this is. But now that they have, maybe we can begin a collective conversation about how we’re going to survive.

And I’m sorry to break it to you, attendees at the 3rd Annual Love Ur Lyfe & Own It Conference in Reno - there will be no t-shirt guns shooting tie dyed essential oil flavored vajazzle kits today. I’m about to unpack the shit out of self-care, not give it to you in a swag bag.

When we hear this catch all phrase “self-care,” what comes to mind?

It’s a lot about the care part, right? Specifically, the care of our physical form.

Splurge on that fancy lipstick, you want to show your Zoom callers you still give a shit! Subscribe to my Buff Bods By Brit video package for $40 a day - you’re worth it! Those peepers need a rest in order to conquer the world…a silk eye pillow will do the trick!

We’ve watched as that 500 billion dollar industry co-opted the very idea of…us.

Instead of beauty for beauty’s sake, it’s now for the sake of OUR SELVES. OUR POWER! OUR FUTURES!

So if we want to dig our heels in a bit and not just spend our way through the sadness and into debt, I think our first step for survival is recognizing that:

Our eyelashes aren’t us.

Our triceps aren’t us.

Even how much we slept last night isn’t us.

The beauty industry (or wellness industry or self-care industry or whatever the fuck we’re calling the jade roller ads that pop up next to the NYT article, promising us some relief from the relentless burden of our lives) wants us to believe that grooming is self-care. That luxury is self-care. That fitness is self-care.

And what I offer to us tonight, on my secondish glass of wine wearing two day old leggings, is that we can in fact care for ourselves by buying the mascara, working out, or sleeping better. But only if we first bring some attention to the first part of that ubiquitous phrase - the self.

For my Buddhy babies out there I promise we’ll unpack that shit at another time (TL;DR - you have no self; we’re all one; after I type this sentence a new me has already been born and the old one is dead forever).

But for now let’s go with this idea - that the industry is trying to get us to care about ourselves, to spend money on ourselves, but no one is giving us space or ways to remember who that is.

I’m not here to tell you about you, to remind you of who you are. I can’t name the beautiful ways you’ve enriched the lives of everyone around you over the past year, you unshowered husk. I can’t tell you about the wells of strength you pulled from when the baby hit his head while you were leading a virtual workshop and your partner was giving a virtual review, and your older kid was on virtual school, and you figured out a way to keep everyone safe and happy, even your client, you broken saggy tittied piece of garbage. I can’t remind you of the time you showed up outside your friend’s house to write sweet messages on her driveway because it was April of 2020 and she was totally lost, you greasy haired nutcase.

Only you can know who you are. The person underneath that sheet mask.

But what I’m pretty sure is true across the board (even for you mother-adjacents out there!) is:

We have no control over anything, ever, and never have. (Again, we’ll do a Buddhism deep dive into that a little later).

But right now, wowza. Not only do we not have control over the big things - whether schools open or close, whether it snows another godawful meter or not, or whether the vaccine gets distributed quickly enough to prevent this variant from killing more people and destroying another year of our lives - the small choices we used to feel control over have also been taken from us.

Deciding where to go on vacation, what to wear for an important meeting or a big night out with our friends. Deciding whether to take the train home at midnight or splurge on a Uber. Deciding what karaoke song to sing and who to talk to at a party.

Our decisions are so limited now, so sad, so paltry. Whether to order your weekly pizza from Joe’s or Sabatino’s. Which mask to wear. Whether to walk up to the reservation or down to town. Whether to do video on or video off.

Perhaps what connects us with us, at least right now in purgatory, is giving ourselves just some shred of control.

If you bring some consciousness to it, I DO THINK that buying a candle or doing a workout qualifies as care of the self. Because you are saying “I want this.” Not “I deserve this; I’ve had a hard year. I’m numbing out and moving towards the ShopPay button because I don’t want to feel the sadness underneath.”

But, more consciously: “I want it. I know me. I will love this thing. I want to buy this and when I wear it I will think of this terrible day and this devastating time and I will remember the moment when, with the money I earned, I saw something I loved and I bought it.”

That’s not nothing. But my dears the buying can’t be the only way we survive.

At some point, in some closet or bathroom or Target parking lot, or in therapy or a tearful come to Jesus with our partners, we are going to have to look even further back. Standing in the shadows of the octopus woman juggling all the balls, who saves the day, over and over, I’m guessing you have a shadow self. A more honest self. Your true “self.” And she might say the same thing as mine.

No one makes any room for me. No one is watching out for me. No one is making decisions for me. I’m the one who holds it, I’m the one who watches, I’m the one who decides.

I just want to be… cared for.

My desire to buy the the dress, to lift tone and burn, to “treat myself” to the third glass of wine is the whisper of myself, that true self, saying “CARE FOR ME. MAKE SPACE FOR ME. GIVE TO ME.”

The dress and the workout and the wine can’t do that for her. Nothing truly can.

But, we can notice her. We can see her tender broken heart, standing behind us, unafraid to appear weak and small. She is weak and small sometimes. As are all humans. It’s just that lately, she hasn’t been allowed to be human at all.

So what if we turn to her and say, “Honey, I see you. I know you’re there. I know you’ve been there all along. You’ve never left me, no matter how tired or fed up you got. But you want more than anyone can give right now, and all I can do is a candle or CBD bath salts, or a long walk or a cry in the garage.”

Maybe we can remember her when we’re in conversations with our bosses, clients, coworkers, partners, parents, kids and even friends. As someone is asking us to do something we don’t want to do, can’t really do, even if it’s as simple and “fun” as Zoom drinks. Maybe we can take just a second and turn towards her and see what she says.

No? You’d rather take a bath, read a book, watch a weird documentary, scroll, pluck your whiskers or go snowshoeing? I hear you, girl. Let’s make that happen. We have some control, yes even now.

Because here’s the thing, New York Times. America’s mothers have been in crisis for awhile now, for long before the schools shut down. No one was there to save us then, and no one is coming to save us anytime soon.

We’re done waiting. It’s up to us now, and by us I mean, well…

Our selves.